A man straitjacketed in routine blinks when his emotional blinders are removed in Tyler’s characteristically tender and rueful latest (Clock Dance, 2018, etc.).
Micah’s existence is entirely organized to his liking. Each morning he goes for a run at 7:15; starts his work as a freelance tech consultant around 10; and in the afternoons deals with tasks in the apartment building where he is the live-in super. He’s the kind of person, brother-in-law Dave mockingly notes, who has an assigned chore for each day: “vacuuming day…dusting day….Your kitchen has a day all its own” (Thursday). Dave’s comments are uttered at a hilarious, chaotic family get-together that demonstrates the origins of Micah’s persnickety behavior and offers a welcome note of comedy in what is otherwise quite a sad tale. Micah thinks of himself as a good guy with a good life. It’s something of a shock when the son of his college girlfriend turns up wondering if Micah might be his father (not possible, it’s quickly established), and it’s really a shock when his casual agreement to let 18-year-old Brink crash in his apartment for a night leads Micah’s “woman friend,” Cass, to break up with him. “There I was, on the verge of losing my apartment,” she says. “What did you do? Quickly invite the nearest stranger into your spare room.” Indignant at first, Micah slowly begins to see the pattern that has kept him warily distant from other people, particularly the girlfriends who were only briefly good enough for him. (They were always the ones who left, once they figured it out.) The title flags a lovely metaphor for Micah’s lifelong ability to delude himself about the nature of his relationships. Once he realizes it, agonizing examples of the human connections he has unconsciously avoided are everywhere visible, his loneliness palpable. These chapters are painfully poignant—thank goodness Tyler is too warmhearted an artist not to give her sad-sack hero at least the possibility of a happy ending.
Suffused with feeling and very moving.